by David Perril
To say that we welcome spring each year is to understate the case. We absolutely yearn for it! We long to see the crocus & daffodils coming into flower don’t we? But I guess many of us will also have had our share of false springs over the years.
After a long winter of snow, ice and rain, desperate to get out to the garden and see the signs of new life. Every year we convince ourselves that spring will come early, we get a few unseasonably warm days, buds are just about beginning to swell on the trees, and we decide that tomorrow we will get out into the garden and begin the spring tidy up. We get up raring to go, open the curtains, and see the daffodils – covered in snow !
Winter has returned & we grudgingly contemplate the wellington boots again. The false spring has done its work.
On a promising day in spring, a little over 2,000 years ago, Jesus made His way to Jerusalem riding on a colt. A recent event had encouraged His followers to believe that the springtime of the new Kingdom was budding, green shoots were clearly visible. One of the crowd who travelled with them was Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary, he had recently been restored to life by Jesus.
Along the path the crowds shouted praise because of his deliverance from death. He was evidence of the great power of Jesus. “Hosannah!” they sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
The chanting of the ever increasing crowd stunned & terrified Jerusalem’s official. They perceived a threat to their power and they began to plot the death of Lazarus & Jesus.
Because of what happened that day we have named it “Palm Sunday.” and we refer to the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem that day as the “Triumphal Entry.”
For those who marched into the city that day it was a breath of spring. For Israel, the long wait of winter seemed to be coming to a close. The lonely, long dark vigil of the Kingdom was past. He was here, the Messiah had come! the waiting was over, deliverance from the oppression of Roman rule seemed to be in their grasp.
Visions of new happy times came to mind. David had founded Israel as a nation; he had established a capital, a royal court, a government, a kingdom. Israel had once been a powerful and respected Nation. The poor and oppressed were treated with justice. Such glory had long since departed, and its renewal was long overdue.
That day the gathering crowd saw the Kingdom in the pangs of rebirth. God would rule again! The supremacy of Israel would again be felt among the nations. Yahweh again would dwell in the temple. But it was a false spring, very soon their shouts of Hosannah would begin to stick in their throats. The ever growing crowd which swelled the joyful chorus became a very angry mob. Their song of triumph turned into a coarse chant: “Crucify Him” they shouted, “We have no king but Caesar.”
The hopes of so many people lay lifeless on the palm covered ground. And so that scene has been repeated, over & over in many successive generations since then. It may even be the story of our own pilgrimage, because we, like those pilgrims of old, can so often begin with noble motives, high hopes, clear visions, & strong resolve. We are, just as they were, eager to shout “Hosannah!” The enthusiasm of those around us can be contagious.
But there can come a day when we realise that we have not counted the cost. On Palm Sunday it is prudent to take stock. Look at the world around us and ask ourselves Have we put aside our ideals in favour of easier approaches to life. Have we allowed ourselves to admit what we thought was a triumph was only a false spring ?
Because even a False Spring can be a taste; a harbinger of things to come. Winter has not had the last laugh, for sure spring will come again! So we can also take heart today because Palm Sunday is also a symbol of great things to come, – of resurrection. Certainly the false spring is a reminder to us that we cannot move from Palm Sunday to Easter without journeying with Jesus from Jerusalem to Golgotha and the tomb.
For it is true that as soon as we are born we begin to die. It is also true that before we can begin to live we must learn to die. Only when we have mastered that truth are we free for abundant living. How can we master that lesson?
Recall the Lord’s word: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
There is no need for us to live in the shadow of death, once we have come to grips with that truth we can get on with what is significant in our lives, accepting that winter will return after a false spring, but also knowing that true spring will come and we can abandon all pretence and get on to living with purpose. Death has been conquered and we can say those words of St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) “Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where O death, is your victory?
Where O death, is your sting?
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So we should not be too despairing today. Today is only a kind of false spring. Christ did not just go riding on a colt into Jerusalem to face his appalling his death. He rode there to His destiny to seal His fate and the future of all who believe in Him.
This story is a symbol of things to come, of things as they can be, because that false spring assures us that the Kingdom will come to those who have eyes of faith. Even as the shadow of a cross hangs over today’s “Triumphal entry into Jerusalem “, making our celebration short lived, we should see this day as our encouragement to walk in faith towards a garden of agony and a hill of suffering, confident that night will pass and a third day will be ushered in.
The false spring of Palm Sunday says to us in the words of 1:Peter 5:10
“Not yet. Wait a little longer. We must first pass the cross and the tomb.” “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”